Tag Archives: Epic

Excerpt from The McAdooiad: The Vale of Pundits

(In my epic-in-progress poem The McAdooiad, a political consultant leads an expedition to Hades to conduct a focus group there. While there, they are given a tour by the shade of someone who might be Mark Twain, or maybe Kurt Vonnegut, or possibly both. They travel to the section of Hell called the Vale of Pundits.)

“Hell has expanded since Dante’s day,” the guide explained.
“More than just nine rings – indeed, nine times nine sets of rings,
A great anti-amusement complex, a vast park of punishments,
Mall upon mall of maulings, subdivisions of sufferings,
For those who could not, would not, dared not repent.

“Construction continues, new Hells are designed, approved, erected,
But it cannot keep up with the influx of souls – hence your delays upon entry.
Still for all the mass production, for all the identical highrising rows,
Yet there are some who have rated their very own personal dooms,
who have crafted their eternal homes, which even now await their architects.

“Ah, we have arrived. Come, gentlemen, behold the Vale of Pundits.”
The huge conveyance rattled to a stop, its doors sighed open
And roughly spewed them onto a lofty platform.
Before them swam a frothy miasma of shifting positions,
A sight that made them dizzy and disoriented.

Like the froth of bathtub suds, when a young child empties
The whole container of Mr. Bubble beneath the faucet’s roar;
But also like a pit of lava, bubbling, erupting, red-hot heaving –
So did this jumble of enclosures appear
To the travelers’ bewildered eyes.

“Each of these spheres,” explained their white-haired escort,
“That you see before you, stands ready for its guest.
These are for those who sold their gifts to the highest bidders,
Who betrayed both their craft and their fellow beings
To deceive and divide, to satisfy the needs of the powerful.”

“Somewhere in this Hell … here, this one: see this vast, empty plain?
In its midst  there lies a table; behind, a comfortable leather chair.
On the table sits a great golden microphone, and an ashtray with a cigar.
There is a man who has condemned himself to sit behind that microphone
Forever, and smoke that cigar, and talk and talk and talk and talk….

“Trying to convince someone, anyone, that he does not belong there.
The microphone, however, will not be connected to anything.
Only he will hear himself, and he will hear only himself
But he will not even be able to convince himself.
Because no one could ever make him change his mind.”

“And here! Oh, look, you spinners of words:
For here is something you may perhaps find instructional.
Behold this scene, see these halls of mirrors?
Here shall languish a man, who mastered the art of litany;
The lie, repeated enough times, he made to seem truth.

“So every word here uttered, each sound made, shall rebound
Unendingly, to the eternal torment of those poor Irish ears.
But this is the bed which he himself has made.
Here, I can demonstrate…” and leaning close, the guide
Whispered one small word: “Benghazi”

Like the clanging of bells in a clocktower, as evening’s sun
Disappears behind the tenements, or the sounding of klaxons
That warned of impending bombers, the word
Fed back upon itself, building force without remorse or mercy,
Until the travelers thought their heads should indeed explode.

It lasted but a second, this great cacaphony, this
Tsunami of dreck, but it left them all grey faced and ashen.
“Tell me, Guide,” said Barychnikov, his beard trembling,
“I recognize these men of whom you speak. What of
That woman, tall and gaunt, who so delights in outrage…”

“Say no more,” the guide replied. “She of whom you speak
Has such great pain created, such revulsion caused,
With such carelessness and cruelty, with such deliberate malice,
That were I to show you the fate that she has created here
Your minds would go mad, and your hearts shatter.”

“One last ere we move on…” He turned with bushy eyebrows
Towards the churning mass, and one sphere moved to the front.
They saw a great rotisserie, a turning spit, above red-hot coals.
The spit was empty, but standing all around were monstrous,
Hungry, clutching hands eagerly straining towards the fire.

“Here shall soon reside a man, once powerful, a leader of the pack,
Who built an empire from falsehood and fright. Of great bulk
And greater ego, he forced himself upon the women in his employ,
Enslaving them to his appetites. So here he shall spin, if you will,
While he is groped, prodded, molested, and worse.”


or, A Focus Group in Hades


Sing out, O Kryptolia, O hitherto unknown Muse of hidden things!
Muse of secrets, of furtive plans, of whispers and rumors, sing!
Allow your humble servant to leak the tale of that perilous journey
The vote-gatherers took, the pollsters, the dizzy-spinning men,
To Hades, seeking the counsel of the dead.

It was McAdoo the far-seeing, McAdoo of the silver-templed head
Lobbyist, powerbroker, whose Porsche shone iridescent green,
Who caused the knees of Senators to buckle in fear or gratitude, depending,
Yes, McAdoo it was who rose at lunch, and the PowerPoint preso glowed
Behind him in the warmly paneled conference room.

“Come,” he said, “we who would know the minds of the electorate,
Who with our tools can discern the currents of opinion,
So that we can gain knowledge of interest to the powerhungry
And design for them the magic spells that bind their followers
And cast confusion into the camps of their adversaries…

“We seek to understand the hearts and minds of all who live
But there are others who know more than we ever could
Others no longer hindered by their own biases or interests
Others who vision exceeds that of CNN, or Fox, or al-Jazeera
For they have left this world and watch impassive from below.

“Know that next week shall I set out for the sparkling Aegean
There to conduct certain – shall we say, transactions
Which shall give me safe passage to the banks of the Lethe
There to conduct focus groups among the shades of the departed
And you can go with me – for only ten thousand dollars, double occupancy.”

What hubbub, Kryptolia, what buzzing, what flipping of phones
Did McAdoo’s words among the gathered suits create!
Like that swarm of cicadas, rising from near-score years of slumber,
Their wings darkening skies, their wings beating the air,
So did that conference room hum with the sounds of rearranged schedules.

And so indeed, as the administrative assistants had arranged,
Did private jets, corporate jets, jumbo jets, circling like seagulls,
Flit between the clouds above the Acropolis; and grey-eyed Athena,
Had she bothered to appear, might have smiled – smiled that rueful smile
That the gods put on when confronted with the follies of mortals.

And here now, goddess, show us the names on the passports,
As they are stamped by the customs personnel, watching their watchlists:
crafty Macgillicuddy – stout-voiced Herberts – Chen, of Hong Kong,
Liu who rarely smiled – Delaceur, ambition-driven, heedless of others –
Hendricks and Al-Gabir and Barychnikov, Smith (A.) and Smith (R.).

And behold, the great yacht Gorgon cruising among the Aegean isles
Where once sailed crafty Odysseus, proud Achilles, doomed Agamemnon,
Kings whose ships could serve as mere dinghies for this craft,
Whose banquet halls would perhaps fit upon its foredeck,
And whose fields would be hardpressed to supply its sumptuous buffet.

The Gorgon sought its harbor, a bay along an islet set upon the sea
Like a small emerald displayed on cloth of velvet blue.
Skiffs were launched, each ferrying half the touring band,
To the pier where their host, Stavros of weathered face,
Stood anticipating their arrival, ready to welcome them.